Well Documented Evidence

“Some have mistakenly argued that any variation in the retelling of the story is evidence of fabrication. To the contrary, the rich historical record enables us to learn more about this remarkable event than we could if they were less well-documented.” — Richard J. Maynes, Seventy

The founder of the Mormon faith, Joseph Smith Jr., began his journey to prophet with an event that has been called “The First Vision.”  When I was growing up as a young Mormon boy, I was told that Joseph knelt to pray in a grove of trees to ask God which of the many churches was true.  According to the story I was told, Joseph was visited by both Heavenly Father (God) and Jesus Christ, who told him none of the churches were true, and that he was to found a new one.

In the 17 years I was active in The LDS Church, that was the only version of the story I ever heard.  It turns out that there are many versions, with widely differing timelines and subject matters.  The LDS Church even has an official essay on the subject, and you can read them for yourself at The Joseph Smith Papers Project.

FirstVisionsMormonInfographics

For many people, who were as ignorant to these facts as I once was, discovering this can be a bit faith-shaking.  This event is absolutely pivotal and essential in the Joseph Smith narrative, and the inconsistencies are troubling. One might think that such a momentous moment as meeting God, or God and Jesus, or an angel, or a Pillar of Fire, would be distinctly memorable.

If this is bothersome to you, let not  your heart be troubled;  Elder Richard Maynes explains how differing versions of an important story, with different dates, and different people, with different messages actually make The First Vision “the best-documented vision in history.”

To demonstrate my particular reaction to this breach of logic and reason, I present my original one-act play:

The Best Documented Dinner in History

[Scene:  Interior.  A small police department interrogation room.  Two detectives (Cop #1 and Cop #2 stand at a table in front of a seated ‘Gary’]

Cop #1: Hey, Gary. We brought you in because someone said they saw you over by the old Buckner place last Monday, just before it was robbed. Can you tell us where you were last Monday night? At about 7:30pm?

Gary: Oh. I was at dinner.

Cop #2: Yeah? Where’d you go? Any good?

Gary: Oh, yeah. New taco restaurant. ‘Los Amgios.’ Great chorizo.

Cop #1: That sounds great. What time did you get there?

Gary: Let me see. I started walking from my place at about 7:00.

Cop #2: And how far away do you live?

Gary: About 3 miles, which is why I took my bike.

Cop #1: But you just said you started walking?

Gary: That’s right I started walking over to Les Poissons, the French place.

Cop #2: Huh? Didn’t you say you were going to ‘Los Amigos’?

Gary: I did. It’s really good.

Cop #1: What about Les Poissons?

Gary: It’s really good.

Cop #2: Did you get a receipt?

Gary: Yup! It’s there in my wallet.

Cop #1: [shuffles through the wallet] Is this the one? To a restaurant called The Burger Bar?

Gary: Yup! I drove over there at a quarter after seven last Monday.

Cop #1: Is he putting me on, or am I putting him on?

Cop #2: So, on last Monday, you walked to a Mexican restaurant, biked to a French restaurant, and then drove to a burger joint, all on the same night, during roughly the same time period?

Gary: Of course! The consistent inconsistency proves how true it is.

2 thoughts on “Well Documented Evidence”

  1. My purpose in writing this is not to be contentious or to get in a debate.
    I am 70 years old and have been active in the LDS Church for 50 years. I have some concerns myself about the different versions of The First Vision of Joseph Smith. There are some other things in church history that concern me also. But my anchor has been The Book of Mormon. Some of the loudest critics have never read it. Can you imagine somebody giving a book report on a book they have never read or maybe just skimmed through parts of it. But I challenge you to read it carefully and with an open mind. Don’t prejudge. As you read page by page, just keep asking yourself could Joseph Smith or anyone else have made this up. I can hardly get through a page without it screaming to me logically that it is true. Then if you want to take it a step further follow the promise in Moroni 10:4-5. If the Book of Mormon is true, what else matters?

    1. I’ve read The Book of Mormon at least six times; cover to cover. My family used to read it every morning at the breakfast table. I’ve read it by myself. I’ve read about horses and saddles and chariots and steel swords that don’t exist. I’ve read about God cursing and punishing people with dark skin for something a long-forgotten relative did. I’ve read the mis-translated KJV plagiarisms within its pages. I wasn’t told of any of these problems and grew up believing the validity of The Book of Mormon as fervently as any member. Then I grew up and did some thinking and research. I read ‘No Man Knows My History’, ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’, and other much more plausible books and explanations.

      Joseph Smith or someone else could have made it up. ‘View of The Hebrews’ is a very similar text and idea, written by Oliver Cowdrey’s pastor. Read Mark Twain’s analysis of “The Mormon Bible” in his book ‘Roughing It’. Even he saw it as a clear plagiarism of The Bible.

      Joseph Smith translated three different “ancient texts.” The Kinderhook plates were an admitted fraud. The Book of Abraham is clearly not a translation of the Egyptian papyrus. But, The Book of Mormon, that is a valid translation? With my sincere doubts about Mr. Smith’s First Vision Stories, his dishonesty with regards to The Kirkland Safety Society, his fervent and public denials of polygamy/polyandry all whilst practicing those principles in defiance of God’s own prophecies, along with a lack of any archaeological evidence for The Book of Mormon, I’m going to employ some skepticism and severely doubt The Book of Mormon’s validity and authenticity as an “ancient record.”

      Cheers,
      Justin

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